The University of Texas System’s Board of Regents has voted to allocate up to $30 million annually from the state’s Available University Fund to establish a medical school in Austin.
This meaningful, long-term commitment comes less than two weeks after the Central Health Board approved a non-binding Letter of Intent (LOI) signed by Seton President and Interim CEO Jesus Garza. The LOI, if approved later this year by the Seton Board of Trustees and the Ascension Health Board, will authorize a $250 million Seton investment in a new teaching hospital to replace University Medical Center Brackenridge. It also is expected to lead to a new arrangement with Central Health to dramatically reduce Seton’s financial exposure at UMCB.
Central Health, formerly known as the Travis County Health Care District, owns UMC Brackenridge. Seton operates it as the local public hospital under contract with Central Health.
A news release issued by the Regents after their May 3 vote notes that the broad business-political-community partnership led by Texas State Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin is making significant progress toward the top two goals of Watson’s “10 in 10” plan. Topping his 10 goals in 10 years is (1) build a four-year medical school and (2) build a modern teaching hospital. The medical school and teaching hospital are dependent upon each other to be successful, and the other eight goals all depend in part on the first two goals if they are to be attained.
The ultimate goal is for Central Texas to emerge as a nationally recognized leader in life sciences research, training hundreds of new doctors; developing and instituting new best practices in the art of medicine; and creating thousands of new jobs.
A medical school would build on world-class educational programs at The University of Texas at Austin that already are dedicated to advancing medical research and improving health care. These include the Department of Biomedical Engineering, Dell Pediatric Research Institute, School of Nursing, College of Pharmacy and College of Natural Sciences.
The Central Health-Seton LOI has four major elements, one of which is Central Health and the UT System jointly funding the construction and operation of a medical school.
Another key element calls for Seton to fund construction of a new UMC Brackenridge in exchange for increased financial risk on Central Health’s part.
The other two major elements are:
- Seton and Central Health jointly govern an “Integrated Delivery System” (IDS) entity, to achieve greater efficiency and maximize local, state and federal funding.
- Clear acknowledgement that Seton, as a Ministry of the Catholic Church, is committed to abide by the Ethical and Religious Directives of Catholic Health Care Services.
A new organization, HealthyATX, was launched April 23 by Watson, Seton’s Charles Barnett and other community leaders to foster a dialog on the future of health care in our community. HealthyATX is asking Central Texans to share their health care stories, good and bad, so that concerns can be properly addressed in the years ahead.
Send an email to Adrienne Lallo if you would like to be kept abreast of developments regarding the new medical school, teaching hospital and Sen. Kirk Watson’s 10-point plan for a healthier Central Texas.
Also, follow the conversation on Twitter (#healthyATX).